Depending on how your regular season went, the release of the high school postseason pairings offers your team a chance to prove you were a deserving champion, a second chance to show your team’s mettle and in some cases a chance you didn’t see coming.
For valley teams in boys’ basketball, girls’ basketball and girls’ water polo, those CIF playoff paths have been revealed and the time to start proving yourself is now.
The DVL champion La Quinta Blackhawks are probably still glowing after picking up the school’s first ever DVL basketball title with a victory at Palm Desert on Thursday.
La Quinta begins its playoff quest at home Friday when it hosts Santiago, a team from Corona which finished third in the Big VIII conference. The Blackhawks are the only valley school in Division 1-AA, as divisions are based on school size.
Blackhawks’ head coach Jeff Hepner said he sees no reason why his team can’t keep the momentum going after their historic DVL title.
“I think the kids are ready,” Hepner said. “As soon as the draw came out on Sunday, my phone was blowing up with the players saying they remember Santiago from a summer league game, and things like that. They’re into it.
“This team just doesn’t quit. We’ve got a home game, and we’ve been playing well at home. Heck, we’ve been playing well on the road, too. We never write ourselves out of a game, and that is the right mindset to have in the playoffs.”
The other four DVL teams — yes, I said four — all compete in Division 3-AA and will all start their postseason runs on Wednesday.
We knew Palm Springs, Palm Desert and Cathedral City had qualified, but it was announced Sunday morning that the fifth-place DVL team Indio was given an at-large bid.
The Indians earned the No. 2 DVL seed in a tiebreaker over Palm Desert and host Fullerton of the Freeway League on Wednesday. The Aztecs also secured a home game, hosting El Monte out of the Mission Valley league on Wednesday. Cathedral City will go on the road to face Don Lugo of the Mt. Baldy League. And those Rajahs will play at La Sierra, the top team in the River Valley League.
Shadow Hills, co-champions of the De Anza League, are in Division 3-A, and host Bishop Amat, an at-large team from the Camino Real league on Wednesday.
The Knights, Twentynine Palms and Rancho Mirage all tied for the De Anza title, but fortunately all three are in different divisions, so no tiebreakers were necessary and all three entered their bracket as a league champion.
There will be a lot of firsts on Wednesday night for Rancho Mirage, when it hosts Banning in a Division 4-AA game. It’s the Rattlers first season as a varsity program, so it follows that this will be their first ever playoff game and first ever home playoff game.
“The school is really excited about our success and for us to hang a banner in the gym in our first year was a huge accomplishment,” Rancho Mirage coach Rob Hanmer said. “The opportunity to have a home game is great and hopefully our school will come out in force.”
The Rattlers played Banning in some fall league games, so both teams are familiar with the others’ style.
In small school divisions, Desert Christian Academy hosts Faith Baptist in Division 5-A on Wednesday, and West Shores host St. Monica Academy in Division 6 on Wednesday.
The DVL champion Indio Rajahs will get to christen their new gym with its first home basketball playoff game on Thursday. The Rajahs host Don Lugo of the Mt. Baldy League in the first round of the Division 3-AA playoffs.
DVL runner-up Palm Springs also earned a home game, they’ll face Sultana in a home game Thursday in Division 3-AA. Also hosting a Division 3-AA opener on Thursday will be the Desert Hot Springs Golden Eagles. DHS, which finished second in the De Anza League, hosts Northwood.
La Quinta, Shadow Hills and Cathedral City will all be hitting the road to start their playoff campaigns. La Quinta is at Warren in a Division 1-AA opening-round game on Saturday. The other two begin Thursday in Division 3-A. Shadow Hills is at La Canada and Cathedral City is at Burroughs.
Much like the Indio boys’ the Desert Christian Academy girls had their season extended by an at-large berth. The Conquerors play at Luceren Valley on Thursday.
Palm Valley qualified for the Division 6 playoffs. They play at Baker Valley on Thursday.
Palm Desert, the defending CIF champions in Division 6, will try for a repeat as the top seed in Division 5 this year.
Their quest begins Wednesday at home against the winner of a Tuesday wild-card game between Pacifica (Oxnard) and Citrus Valley.
La Quinta, the second-place team in the Desert Valley League, will open its playoff run on the road Wednesday at Los Altos.
First out of the gate will be Xavier Prep, the final representative from the DVL. The Saints open with a wild-card game Tuesday on the road at Chino. With a win Xavier Prep would then play Wednesday at powerful Redlands East Valley, the second seeded team in the division behind Palm Desert.
All water polo games begin at 5 p.m. unless both schools agree to a change, so stay tuned because start times can fluctuate.
CIF PLAYOFF SCHEDULE
(Note: All water polo games begin at 5 p.m. and all basketball games begin at 7 p.m. unless both schools agree to a change)
•Xavier Prep at Chino
•Fullerton at Palm Springs
•El Monte at Palm Desert
•Indio at La Sierra
•Cathedral City at Don Lugo
•Bishop Amat at Shadow Hills
•Banning at Rancho Mirage
•Faith Baptist at Desert Christian Academy
•St. Monica Acad. at West Shores
•Pacifica or Citrus Valley at Palm Desert
•La Quinta at Los Altos
•Don Lugo at Indio
•Sultana at Palm Springs
•Northwood at Desert Hot Springs
•Shadow Hills at La Canada
•Cathedral City at Burroughs
•Desert Christian Academy at Lucerne Valley
•Palm Valley at Baker Valley
•Santiago at La Quinta
•La Quinta at Warren
NOTE: Soccer pairings are released Monday